Rejuvenated is the word to describe the Los Angeles Kings of late. They have kicked off the trade season with a bang, addressing their needs with shrewd deals for big Dion Phaneuf and speedy Tobias Rieder. Phaneuf’s impact has been immediate—he has scored in 3 of his 4 Kings games so far.
After some subpar performances in January, Jonathan Quick has saved above .940 and has a 1.67 GAA in his last three games. He is back to playoff form, and the Kings will depend on him down the stretch as they have traded Darcy Kuemper to get Rieder.
Even Andy Andreoff has gotten into the action. Who would have thought that Andreoff would be a catalyst in the Kings’ latest three-game winning streak, scoring the game-winning goal against Chicago and an assist against Buffalo. And Torrey Mitchell, the Kings’ earlier trade acquisition, has scored in three of his last five games.
Would the energy boost continue?
Nate Thompson took the opening faceoff, alongside Rieder and Tyler Toffoli to start the game.
Jason Spezza slashed Michael Amadio near the third minute. The Kings came out attacking, but couldn’t jam in rebounds, and a streaking Toffoli could not convert.
Five minutes in, a Shore sighting! But it was Devin Shore, whose wide shot caught Quick scrambling out of position. Fortunately, the defense of Thompson stopped the wraparound chance by Jamie Benn. Thompson is making his impact in ways other than scoring.
Then a rare call—illegal check to the chin—was made on Alexander Radulov but the power play did not threaten. But the intensity was revived by a classic open-ice hit by Phaneuf on Antoine Roussel. Mr. Elisha Cuthbert is also making his impact in ways other than scoring.
An excellent penalty kill by Los Angeles, and the rest of the period was a defensive match, along with some agitation by Phaneuf and some neat stickhandling by Amadio in the final seasons. Both teams jabbed, but both teams defended well. The Dallas Stars outhit the Kings 18-11, but only managed two shots on goal.
Dallas had traffic and a juicy rebound, but Quick got down fast and laid down his stick horizontally before Radek Faksa could slam the puck into the open net. A few minutes later Dustin Brown stickhandled around a defender to get inside beautifully, but his diving shot was wide.
But eventually, it looked like Dallas was on the power play, and dominated possession, despite no Kings penalty. Dallas played keep away, and then from the corner, centered the puck for a scoring chance. But Quick was up to task. Dallas started the period outshooting the Kings 6-1.
Over the next several minutes, the speed of Dallas tilted the ice in its favor. The Kings used their hockey intelligence to defend and clear just enough of the Stars’ chances. A Kings breakout was ruined, as a drop pass to nowhere led to more Stars offense, which Quick gloved to stop the momentum. That was followed by an unnecessary icing by Andreoff, who failed to cross the red line before dumping the puck.
Icing infractions by Dallas gave the Kings time to breathe. And Alex Iafallo—who else—made another timely steal with his relentless skating to give his teammates some much-needed offense. But the pseudo-power play continued for Dallas, who outshot the Kings 13-5 in the second period. The Kings spent all of their energy on defense, only managing to clear the puck when they had it, to desperately change players. And with five minutes to go, Quick made an elite save to prevent a tip-in by Faksa. Moving to his left, he managed to kick his right pad instead to make the save of the night.
In the final minutes, the Kings juggled their lines, and things changed. There was some pinball action as a series of hits kept the puck in the offensive zone for the Kings. Then after an unexpected Toffoli long-range slap shot was kicked out far by goalie Kari Lehtonen, the puck ended up in Drew Doughty’s stick. With time and room, he made a huge drag move for the best shot of the second period for the Kings. But Thompson once again could not reach the rebound. Anze Kopitar kept the puck alive with his masterful lean-and-possess game. Down went the referee! But no goal to go with it.
In a “Hockey is for Everyone” segment, the Kings shared the story of Kyle Wallace, who was born with multiple sclerosis that left him blind. Kyle is the only blind player in his special-needs league. But with guidance from his father standing behind the net, he is able to play goaltender. The meeting with his idol Jonathan Quick (Kyle also wears number 32), and the way his family shared how much hockey means to him, was touching.
A three-point game is not what the Kings would prefer, in division and wild card races that are both tight. After more speed-infused offense by Dallas, the Stars needed a line change, allowing Kopitar to break out the whole length of the ice. A Rieder pull-and-drag move was followed by a shot wide.
The Kings benefited from some Dallas icings, but Dallas seemingly won every faceoff that followed. Tanner Pearson employed some of his own speed and fanned on his shot. It caused an unexpected rebound that the Kings could not jam in.
Quick tried to facilitate the offense, but his passes were too long, and his possession took too long. Every Kings possession seemed disrupted, and Dallas took the puck right back into the offensive zone with haste. Many passes were abject turnovers, and even Eric Cartman couldn’t provide the black mages with extra hit points. Or magic points. Or even gold to spend.
It seemed Dallas would eventually be rewarded for its persistence. With 8:27 to go, it was. Tyler Seguin won another faceoff for Dallas, and the puck went to Greg Pateryn at the point. The shot deflected off of Seguin for his 30th goal, breaking the scoreless tie.
And that was all the Texans needed. With five minutes to go, the Kings paired Doughty with Jake Muzzin and got themselves a rare 3-on-2. But Muzzin’s shot was saved and deflected over the net, and Iafallo missed an open net a few moments later. The Kings pulled Quick in desperation, but to no avail as Radulov disrupted the Kings at the blue line, and mailed the puck into the open net.
After a dominant first period outshooting Dallas 8-2, the Kings were outshot 26-10 the rest of the way and never established clean, sustained offense again. The speed of Dallas smothered the Kings, and tipped the ice in the Stars’ favor, as Los Angeles remained stuck in first gear. Eventually the meal slid off the dinner table and onto the carpet of the throne room. A few icing calls interrupted the flow for Dallas, but the Stars won 63% of the faceoffs to reestablish control. Faceoffs were the difference indeed, as the Stars scored from the point shot off a faceoff, and the Kings were shut out.
The Dallas Stars gained crucial distance between themselves and the Kings. Dallas is now third in the Central Division with 74 points. The Kings (71 points) are now behind Minnesota (73) and St. Louis (72) for the wild card spot, and behind Anaheim (73) and San Jose (74) in the Pacific Division.